Today, the SRI delivered a statement at the 2013 Substantive Session of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the UN. During the General Segment, under an agenda item on health, the SRI called for prioritization of sexual and reproductive rights and health and application of a human rights-based approach to policy formulation and programming. It drew the ECOSOC’s attention to guidance developed by various UN human rights bodies including treaty monitoring bodies, UN Special Procedures and UN agencies, among others. It called upon the UN system to fully implement these guidance in all its work, including formulation of the post-2015 development agenda. Read the full statement, attached.
Archive for July, 2013:
The 23rd Session of the Human Rights Council ran from May 27 until June 14 2013. Sexual Rights Initiative (SRI) partners participated in the session to ensure that sexual rights issues are included and advanced. SRI partners collectively advocated for the recognition and integration of issues related to sexual and reproductive rights, gender equality and human rights in the resolutions discussed throughout this session.
Accelerating efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women: preventing and responding to rape and other forms of sexual violence: SRI partners mobilized towards inclusion in this resolution of operational paragraphs on sexual and reproductive rights in the form of critical actions including provision of sexuality education to adolescents, which plays a strong role in promoting gender equality, empowering girls and reducing gender-based violence; and review of laws that criminalize or restrict access to abortion. Unfortunately, due to a lack of political will on behalf of the Canadian government, who tabled it, the final resolution does not contain these actions, or even list critical sexual and reproductive health services that survivors of sexual violence must have access to, such as emergency contraception, safe abortion, post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV, and screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections as agreed to at this year’s Commission on the Status of Women. The draft resolution did not even recognize the importance of women’s reproductive rights; nonetheless, input from States such as the US, Australia, New Zealand, and a number of European, Latin American and Caribbean States led to inclusion of language recognizing the importance of promoting sexual and reproductive health (SRH) and protecting and fulfilling reproductive rights. The final resolution does have a strong provision on marital rape and changing discriminatory laws in relation to sexual violence. It was co-sponsored by 66 member states (a drop in number from previous years).
Access to medicines in the context of the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health: The resolution on access to medicines was led by Brazil, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Senegal, South Africa and Thailand. It emphasizes the relationship between health and poverty, specifically identifying poverty as a barrier to the full realization of individuals’ right to health. The resolution goes on to stress State responsibilities in ensuring the highest attainable standard of health though non-discriminatory access to medicines through the establishment of national health frameworks. In this area, the resolution calls on the participation of stakeholders in the formulation of national policies and programmes. The resolution also calls on States to provide access to medicines to individuals in vulnerable situations. The resolution does not make reference to specific medicines, including, for example, access to a range of modern methods of contraception or drugs for medical abortion, nor does it refer to individuals’ right to the benefits of scientific progress, including access to sexual and reproductive health information that is scientifically valid and evidence-based and access to sexual and reproductive health services that are of the highest quality.
The Right to Education: follow up to the Human Rights Council Resolution 8/4: This resolution, led by Portugal and focusing on the justiciability of the right to education, highlights the necessity of achieving the Millennium Development Goals as they relate to education, with a specific focus on eliminating gender parity in education. The resolution calls on States to foster human rights education and the importance of effective independent accountability mechanisms, including in relation to education provided by non-state actors. The resolution does not contain references to justiciability of access to and quality of comprehensive sexuality education.
Elimination of discrimination against women: The resolution, led by Colombia and Mexico, acknowledges discriminatory laws, policies, customs and traditions that restrict women’s equal access to and full participation in development processes. Concretely, the resolution calls on governments to eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and girls and to reform and implement legal frameworks and policies for the achievement of gender equality. The resolution also calls for the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls, through the establishment of comprehensive national legal frameworks to combat impunity and guarantees in access to appropriate civil remedies and redress.
The role of freedom of opinion and expression in women’s empowerment: The resolution calls on States to provide women and girls with access to effective remedies for violations of their right to freedom of opinion and expression, and to ensure that there is no impunity for gender-based violence, including sexual violence, used to intimidate women and girls who are exercising their right to freedom of opinion and expression. The resolution also calls on the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression to include in his reports an analysis of the role of freedom of opinion and expression in improving women’s participation in political, social, cultural and economic life and in advancing gender equality, as well as an analysis of the challenges that women face in exercising their freedom of opinion and expression.
HRC23 Oral Statements:
- Special Rapporteur on violence against women report on State responsibility for eliminating violence against women
- Special Rapporteur on the right to health report on access to medicines
- Special Rapporeteur on the right to education report on the justiciability of the right to education.
Oral statements were also delivered by the SRI during the Annual Day of Discussion on women’s human rights. The SRI’s statement advocated for States responsibilities in eliminating all forms of violence against women and the due diligence standards as a tool for holding States accountable for failing to prevent violence against women. The SRI delivered an oral statement during agenda items 2 & 3 on reports of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the OHCHR and the Secretary-General, and the promotion and protection of all human rights, focusing on the need to address institutional and systematic gender and patriarchal biases by integrating these issues into the work of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and the OHCHR. The SRI also delivered a statement on agenda item 8 on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action: Follow-up and implementation, calling on governments to prevent and redress all forms of human rights violations, including those based on sexuality and gender.
SRI parallel event: The SRI hosted a parallel event, “Advancing sexual and reproductive rights and health in the Post-2015 development agenda: The role of the Human Rights Council,” in collaboration with the World YWCA, and Permanent Missions to the UN in Geneva of Finland, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Uruguay. The event sought to highlight advancements in international law and global policy on sexual and reproductive rights and health since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, and discuss the role of the HRC in transferring these to the process of formulating the post-2015 development agenda. The event was chaired by Reinout Vos, the Deputy Permanent Representative of the Netherlands, and speakers included Dianela Pi, from the Permanent Mission of Uruguay; Alanna Armitage, from the United Nations Population Fund; Sandeep Prasad, member of the High Level Task Force for ICPD and the SRI; and Kgothatso Elisa Mokoena, from World YWCA. Read more about the event here.
Webcast: To view a full webcast of the 23rd session of the HRC, visit: http://webtv.un.org/meetings-events/, click on “Human Rights Council,” “Regular Sessions,” and “23rd Session.”
On June 6th 2013, the Sexual Rights Initiative (SRI), in collaboration with the World YWCA, and Permanent Missions to the UN in Geneva of Finland, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Uruguay organized a parallel event on ‘the role of the Human Rights Council in advancing sexual and reproductive rights and health in the post-2015 development agenda’. This event was held at the Palais des Nations in Geneva during the 23rd regular session of the Human Rights Council (HRC) and brought together a large number of representatives from Member States, UN agencies and civil society. The event sought to highlight advancements in international law and global policy on sexual and reproductive rights and health since the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) and the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, and discuss the role of the HRC in transferring these to the process of formulating the post-2015 development agenda.
The event was Chaired by Reinout Vos, the Deputy Permanent Representative of the Netherlands, who drew attention to State obligations to provide comprehensive sexuality education to children and young people in both formal and informal settings; to strengthen health systems through the provision of comprehensive and integrated sexual and reproductive health information and services; to train State personnel including health workers, teachers, law enforcement and judiciary on gender equality and sexual and reproductive rights issues; to eliminate discrimination and violence based on gender and sexuality; and to remove legal and regulatory barriers to the exercise of sexual and reproductive rights. He underscored the importance of ensuring that these rights were reflected in the post-2015 development agenda.
The first speaker, Dianela Pi, from the Permanent Mission of Uruguay, shared Uruguay’s experience of implementing the ICPD Programme of Action and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), through enactment of rights-based abortion laws, provision of comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services and sexuality education, and training of teachers. She highlighted advancements made by regional mechanisms and stressed the importance of advancing sexual and reproductive rights issues in the regional population conferences. She also welcomed the inclusion of sexual and reproductive rights in the report of the High Level Panel of Eminent Persons and reiterated Uruguay’s commitment to ensuring that these rights would have a place in the post-2015 development agenda.
Alanna Armitage, from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), spoke about the Global Survey conducted as part of ICPD’s 20-year operational review, focusing on national level implementation of the ICPD PoA and priorities for the coming years. She shared that the survey attempted to gauge whether policies and programmes were human rights-based and revealed some preliminary findings of the survey. These included the increase since ICPD in numbers of institutions working to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment, and the finding that 158 countries have implemented laws to increase the legal age of marriage to 18 years.
“Laws can kill and the tragic deaths of women and girls due to unsafe abortion is a clear example of this.”
Sandeep Prasad, of the SRI and the High Level Task Force for ICPD (HLTF), discussed the unfinished agenda of the ICPD PoA, and its missing parts, for example, law and policy reform. He also discussed the limitations of the MDGs, for example, the silo approach of separating reproductive health and HIV, and called for the post-2015 development agenda to address sexual and reproductive rights and health holistically, and also the accountability deficit. He went on to share the HLTF’s policy recommendations in four key areas of the ICPD PoA: respecting, promoting and fulfilling sexual and reproductive rights for all; accelerating universal access to quality, comprehensive and integrated sexual and reproductive health information, education and services; ensuring universal access to comprehensive sexuality education for all young people, in and out of school; and securing universal access to critical services for all victims and survivors of gender-based violence.
Kgothatso Elisa Mokoena, of the World YWCA, brought to the event the experience of grassroots organizations in Africa, through sharing highlights of the report, ‘Reclaiming and Redefining Rights: Setting the adolescent and youth SRHR agenda beyond ICPD+20’. She highlighted the problems of early and forced marriage, discriminatory traditional practices, lack of knowledge about sexual and reproductive health, and barriers to access to sexual and reproductive health care, including attitudes of service providers and third party consent requirements. She made recommendations to the UN for inclusion in the post-2015 development agenda, including eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls and ending impunity.
The rich discussion that followed touched upon diverse subjects such as engaging men and boys in achieving gender equality and realizing sexual and reproductive rights; determining legal age of marriage; using existing international accountability mechanisms such as the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) and the ICPD operational review; and the relationship between religious values and sexual and reproductive rights. A delegate from Morocco shared that the country had raised the legal age of marriage to 18 years and that this demonstrated that religion and human rights were not incompatible.
There was a deep examination of the role and contribution of the HRC to advancing sexual and reproductive rights, for example, through resolutions on maternal mortality and morbidity, rights of the child to health, and violence against women; recommendations made during the UPR; the Technical Guidance on the application of a human rights-based approach to eliminate maternal mortality and morbidity and on human rights indicators published by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; and the important work of the Special Procedures of the HRC. Reiterating that sexual and reproductive rights are core human rights, panelists and participants reiterated the critical need for States and all other stakeholders to both utilize the normative framework and carry these policies and guidance into discussions on the post-2015 development agenda.
The ICPD Beyond 2014 International Conference on Human Rights took place in The Netherlands from 7-10 July 2013. The Conference is the second thematic conference, following the ICPD Beyond 2014 Global Youth Forum (which took place in Indonesia, in December 2012), to take place within the scope of the ongoing review of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD PoA).
The International Conference on Human Rights identified key achievements, barriers and emerging challenges to delivering the goals of the ICPD. Bringing together over 300 representatives form government, civil society, human rights defenders, academia and UN agencies, conference participants identified concrete ways to bridge gaps and examine intersections between human rights, population, development equality and accountability. Conference sessions were structured around themes including: women’s autonomy and reproductive rights, sexual health and well-being and human rights and gender-based discrimination and violence.
Conference speakers and discussants included:
- Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Executive Director
- Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
- Dawn Cavanagh, Executive Director of the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL, member of the Sexual Rights Initiative),
- Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, World YWCA General Secretary, and recently appointed Executive Director of UN WOMEN
- Babu Ram Pant, youth sexual and reproductive rights advocate from Nepal and member of the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights
- Gita Sen, Professor of Public Policy at the Indian Institute of Management in Bangalore (IIMB), India, and adjunct Professor of Global health and Population, Harvard school of Public health
- Adrienne Germain, President Emerita of the International Women’s health Coalition (IWHC)
- Among others. (Full list available here).
SRI partner organization, Action Canada for Population and Development’s, Executive Director, Sandeep Prasad, co-chaired the Conference Reference Group alongside Ximena Andión, Mexican activist and Director of the Instituto de liderazgo simone de Beavuoir (a civil society organization based in Mexico).
SRI’s conference background paper
The Sexual Rights Initiative prepared a thematic paper for discussion on the topic of human rights and sexuality in the context of development. The paper provided conference participants with an analysis of the relationships between sexuality and sexual rights on the one hand and development on the other, outlines the main legal and policy developments in the area of sexuality and human rights since the Cairo Conference in 1994, identifies emerging issues within the field, and ends with a look ahead towards strengthening the integration of sexuality and sexual rights in the ICPD Beyond 2014 and Post-2015 development agendas. Finally, the paper proposes a set of guiding questions to inform a discussion on emerging issues related to sexuality and sexual rights during the International Conference on Human Rights, and beyond.
The paper can be accessed, here.
Video highlights from the conference
Addressing inequalities and discrimination
Wrap up and debrief Making accountability come to life SRHR parameters and criteria to be taken into account in the future post-2015 framework Main issues and conclusions of the conference
*All videos were taken from the ICPD Beyond 2014 International Conference on Human Rights website, and can be viewed here.*
At the closing of the Conference, the Conference Chair, Marijke Wijnroks (Deputy Director for social development and the Netherlands’ Ambassador for HIV/AIDS and sexual and reproductive health and rights), presented her reflections, positioning gender equality as a prerequisite for any advancement of women and girls’ human rights, emphasized that rights related to sexuality and reproduction are universal human rights, and affirmed that ensuring sexual and reproductive rights requires an enabling environment where people can exercise autonomy and choice.
The closing remarks go on to emphasize the reality that “adolescents, particularly girls, nearly everywhere, face serious barriers in exercising their rights to comprehensive sexuality education and to sexual and reproductive health services.” In her speech, Ms. Wijnroks calls for the:
- Removal of legal and other barriers to access to sexual and reproductive health services;
- Provision of comprehensive sexuality education for all adolescents and young people; so that today’s young have evidence-based information about how their bodies work, and the knowledge and skills to develop relationships based on human rights and gender equality;
- Enabling of choices among the widest possible range of contraceptive methods, including emergency contraception, and other sexual and reproductive health services;
- Allocation of adequate human and financial resources in compliance with human rights standards;
- Ensuring the availability of quality and integratedsexual and reproductive health facilities, services and goods; this includes services such as counseling, emergency obstetric care, safe abortion servicesand HIV prevention and treatment as well as services addressing gender-based violence; and
- Training and supervising health workers in both technical skills and also human rights, so that they guarantee privacy, confidentiality and fully informed and free consent for each and every person, regardless of age, marital status, sexual orientation and gender identity or other characteristics.
Ultimately, supportive of participant reflections throughout the conference, the Chair’s summary called on governments to support strong and effective accountability mechanisms, enact human rights-based policies and programmes and prevent human rights-based violations.
For more information regarding the conference, please visit: http://humanrights.icpdbeyond2014.org/.